The Cleveland Indians reportedly told teams that they wanted that organizations “best offer” by the weekend, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, so that they could make a decision on whether or not they would trade their 4-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor. Late in the week we learned that the Cincinnati Reds had reportedly called Cleveland to discuss a deal, or at least see what the cost of acquisition would be.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted that the Indians really like center fielder Nick Senzel.
Regarding Lindor, Indians are said to like Nick Senzel very much. Haven’t actually heard of a lot of talk between the teams yet but doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Interesting note from @Feinsand
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 19, 2019
When it comes to trading for Francisco Lindor, the deal from anyone is going to be young, cost controlled players. Cleveland is moving Lindor for monetary reasons and that means they are going to want players who aren’t in arbitration yet, much less players with bigger contracts. But to acquire a player like Lindor, it’s also going to take a big time value proposition, too – be it in top prospects, or a player like Nick Senzel and other pieces.
I fully believe that a guy like Luis Castillo is off of the table in this kind of deal. Sonny Gray, too – though he might be making too much money right now to matter to Cleveland. Eugenio Suarez isn’t going anywhere.
With that in mind, here’s my list of a group of players that would probably be among the group of players that if the Reds were going to truly engage in talks, that Cleveland would have interest in:
The top six prospects in the farm system seem to be in a tier of their own. The Reds farm system isn’t quite what it used to be, but at the top it’s still fairly strong. You could make an argument that all six of these players are Top 100 caliber prospects in baseball. None of them are Top 25 guys, but six of them probably fall in that 40-125 range, too. There’s plenty of value here and the Indians probably have more than a little bit of interest in several players from this group.
The Major Leaguers
We’ve already covered how the Indians are interested in Nick Senzel. With Freddy Galvis, he could be a bit of a bridge to whatever the Cleveland plan would be at shortstop moving forward. While he does make more than the league minimum, his salary for 2020 is low and he is only around for one season.
Jesse Winker rakes. His career OPS+ is higher than any single season ever posted by Mike Moustakas. He’s still young, not yet in his prime years, still not arbitration eligible. There’s probably plenty of interest there. With the pitchers, they all bring different things. With Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett you are picking up the pitchers that had the most valuable slider and the 9th most valuable slider among relievers in baseball in 2019. Stephenson’s slider led baseball, by a wide margin actually, while Garrett was 9th according to Fangraphs.
Lucas Sims didn’t pitch quite as much as either Stephenson or Garrett did in the 2019 season. But if you look at his curveball in terms of how valuable it was per 100 times he threw it, it was the 9th best curveball in baseball last season among the 457 pitchers who threw at least 30 innings last year. Like Stephenson and Garrett, Sims isn’t yet to arbitration, so he makes the league minimum or close to it, and has multiple years of team control remaining. All three would potentially provide a good upgrade and depth to the bullpen.
And then there’s Tyler Mahle. He’s shown stretches of good performance in the Major Leagues. But in the last two seasons he’s been bitten by a very high home run rate. But in just about every other area of the game he’s performed better than league average – but the homers have kept his ERA high. He’s young, cost controlled, and under team control for the next five years. There’s upside here, and the cost/years of control certainly fit what Cleveland would be looking for.
All of that brings us back around to the question of what would, or what should the Reds best offer be in the Francisco Lindor sweepstakes. Everyone is going to have a different answer to that question. My assumption is that whatever package is built, if the Reds are even going to “submit” an offer based on past conversations, it’s going to come from the group of players mentioned above.
Reading the cesspool that is twitter dot com, there’s a decent split on whether or not the team should include Nick Senzel in the offer. In a situation where he’s included, he would obviously be the “big” piece of that trade, and the other parts would be lesser ones from the farm system or perhaps the bullpen in the Majors. If the scenario is that he’s not included, then all bets feel like they are off and the farm system is up for grabs in a combination of “whatever it takes” – again, at least according to the responses based upon the social media landscape.
Where the Cincinnati Reds front office falls on this is unknown. We do know that they’ve been willing to trade off some of “the future” for “the now”. That’s what they did when they went out and landed Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline last year. It’s what they did in January when they traded for Sonny Gray. And it’s what they did a year ago when they moved Homer Bailey and prospects to the Dodgers to bring in Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp.
If the Reds are truly going for it, then you can make the argument that moving Nick Senzel in a deal for Francisco Lindor makes plenty of sense. For as good as this writer believes Nick Senzel can be, Francisco Lindor is that guy right now. There’s no growth or improvement needed to be an MVP caliber player – that’s what Lindor is right this second. There’s always a little more to things than just a simply 1-to-1 switch. Money changes what else the team would be able to do swapping those two players, for example. Lindor is going to make about $40M more over the next two seasons.
If the trade is going to come from the farm system, well, it’s likely going to require multiple prospects among the group at the top. It will hurt the future, at least in terms of building from within. Probably. Sometimes those guys do turn into the Yasmani Grandal and Didi Gregorius‘s of the world. But sometimes they also turn into the Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb‘s of the world, too.
What the “losing the future” when trading prospects side of arguments often miss is that winning at the Major League level can still help you build for the future. Winning almost always leads to the team making more money. And if they aren’t going to be cheap with that money, they can use that to bring in players from the outside of the organization – either in trades and pay them, or via free agency.
In the case of a trade for more than a 1-year rental type of player, time works in your favor to draft, continue to develop the players that remain in the organization, or possibly even trade players for prospects down the road to improve the farm and give you others for “the future”. There’s more than one way to build the future – it’s not always going to come exclusively from what is in the farm system right this second.
Assume that the Reds did make the trade and brought in Francisco Lindor and he leaves in free agency after the 2021 season. Most estimates are that he will be paid about $25M in 2021. That’s going to leave Cincinnati plenty of money to work with to figure out 2022’s needs.
Where do you fall on the “best” package that the Cincinnati Reds should offer? And why does that package make sense to you? Is it one where you’re willing to sell the future, so to speak, to try and go “all-in” for the next two seasons? Or are you thinking that the asking price is simply too much here, even for someone as valuable as Francisco Lindor?